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Aliens and Seasons

Malati Mathur

By Michael Merson
Frog Books, 2007, pp. 222, Rs. 250.00

By Bulbul Sharma
Penguin, Delhi, 2006, pp. 165, Rs. 200.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 11 November 2007

The beginning seems promising enough with a trio of kids splashing about in the sea in idyllic Cyprus, throwing out and taking up challenges that teeter dangerously close on the verge of disaster. Thenceforwards, the narrative goes steadily downhill with this uninspiring tale of aliens on the brink of extinction, in search of perfect DNA matches in humans on earth that will inject new life and vigour into the dying race.   The protagonist, Pete Reynolds, is a photographer who returns after a period of many years to the land of his childhood haunts where he had almost drowned in an underwater tunnel one sunlit afternoon. Unknown to him, that almost forgotten incident of his childhood now hovers over his life and threatens the very existence of his family as strange events start to unfold and the skeins of circumstances unravel to take him back to that traumatic day. He is thrust into making a journey first into the depths of the ocean and then into the unfathomable spread of galaxies in a twin attempt to save not only an alien race but also his son who has been kidnapped by agents of the ‘bad’ extra-terrestrials.   The age-old fight between the good guys and the bad guys is iterated once more, the conflict—kidnapping, murder et al—playing out on a cosmic scale, with extraterrestrials and new planets thrown in for added zing and flavour. From eerie space ships made of a strong, tensile, unknown material to probes inserted into the brains of humans in order to harvest tissue cultures; man-eating fish; giant mushrooms that suck the blood and life out of wild boars; dolphin-like beasts with unicorn faces; beautiful alien life-forms with sapphire eyes that light up the area like so many lights, preserved in huge columns of ice, waiting for the magic elixir of human DNA to bring them back to life; ice creatures that ooze a blue liquid when killed; blocks of a miraculous fuel mined from an unknown planet with diamonds holding the blocks together…Think of the most outlandishly imaginative events, devices and creatures and they find expression in this tale.   But where is that frisson of excitement, the thrill of the chase, the nail-biting suspense as one journeys through the far reaches of outer space? The story could, for all its corny twists, be straight out of a bad Hindi film in which the gangsters ...

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